I said it. Miscarriage. It’s an awful word. It’s uncomfortable to talk about, and an even more devastating thing to experience. When my husband and I decided to try to have a baby, we were ecstatic when we immediately got pregnant. It was a dream come true for us. We started listing out possible names, planning the nursery design, and creating a baby registry of everything we’d need. We surprised our friends and family with the news that we were expecting in fun, creative, and memorable ways. We were so happy and filled with so much joy. Then, miscarriage. Our baby was gone.
My doctors acted like it was a completely normal thing. No big deal. While I was completely broken and could barely get out of bed. I couldn’t function. I felt like my entire world had shattered. I had never experienced that level of grief and darkness. The underlying theme, though, to most of my entire life has been “overcome.” So I tried to do just that. I tried to be strong, be a good wife, be a good stepmom, push down the grief, and press on.
We decided to try again, and immediately we were pregnant again. Wow! Unbelievable! We get pregnant so easily! Okay. Here we go. It’s happening. This is it! We’re going to get our baby! But we didn’t. That pregnancy ended in miscarriage, too. More planning, more names, more joy and hope, only to end with even more grief and devastation.
After the second miscarriage, my doctor agreed to send me to a fertility specialist. I was once again determined to overcome whatever was causing us to lose our babies. We dove in headfirst with relentless testing, exams, and evaluations. Everything tested perfectly with me, and everything tested perfectly with my husband. So on paper, we should be able to get pregnant and carry a baby to term, without any complications. As we continued with the testing, I realized one day that I was late. Could it be? Am I? No. But maybe? So I took a pregnancy test and found that we were pregnant with our third baby.
Clearly, this was a God thing, right? This is a clear sign from God that we’re finally being blessed with our sweet baby. So we started, once again, planning and preparing. I slowly let myself start to feel a little bit of joy with every week that passed. I’d tell one more friend, register for one more thing on the list, and let myself dream of what our life will be like with our new bundle of joy. We listened to her heartbeat, talked about baby names, and teased each other about who would be more wrapped around her little finger.
I was still under the care of our fertility specialist, and they monitored me weekly making sure everything was still going smoothly. I was fully letting the joy fill my heart at this point, so much so that I decided to go to my next appointment alone. I went in, lay on the table, chatted with the doctor, and waited to hear her little heartbeat. But there was no heartbeat. She didn’t move. No. No! NO! This isn’t happening. I can’t do this again. Please, God, no! Don’t take my baby.
To say that I was devastated was an understatement. I could barely breathe. I felt like I was being punished, like I did something wrong, or that I wasn’t worthy of having a baby of my own. Most days after that I just felt like a zombie, simply going through the motions of life. More than anything, though, I felt alone. I felt like I was isolated all alone on an island of loss and devastation that no one could possibly understand.
Slowly, in my grief, I started sharing about our babies. It was a way for me to cope. I needed to talk about my babies so they could live on in my heart. What I found in my sharing was that it opened a door for other women to reach out to me. As it turns out, a lot of us have lost babies. We just don’t talk about it. So, let’s change the narrative. Let’s make it okay to talk about the babies we lost and still love, and think of every single day. In my loneliness and grief, I found so much comfort when someone would reach out and share their story with me. It made me feel less alone. I felt seen and understood.
Here’s what I’ve learned
You get stronger. While I don’t think you ever fully “get over it,” I do know that you get stronger. The first few years after losing our babies I could barely go out in public without being triggered. I couldn’t go get a massage because they’d ask me if I’m pregnant. This is standard procedure for the massage therapist. She’s just doing her job, and now I’m a sobbing mess. I couldn’t go to the grocery store, because inevitably there would be a beautiful glowing pregnant woman shopping on the same aisle. I’d take one glance at her, drop my groceries, and fall apart on the way to the car. And forget watching TV. There are way too many tear-provoking commercials and television shows.
Now, there are still triggers, but my heart is stronger, and I’m able to handle it with much more grace. There are still things that sometimes hit me to the core, though. Like the everyday common question we’ve all been asked, “Do you have kids?” When someone asks me this question, there is always an immediate tornado of emotion in my soul, and I have a thousand thoughts flying through my mind about what to say. “Yes, I have a stepson. I also have three babies in heaven. I miss them every day.” Instead, though, I smile with an awkward pause and say, “I have a stepson.”
Grief is not a linear journey. Just because today was easy, does not mean tomorrow will be better. You will not necessarily get a little better each day. I wasn’t prepared for that at first, but now when the waves of overwhelming grief come, I let myself feel it, embrace it, and when the time is right, I let it pass. Take it one day at a time, and above all else, give yourself grace.
Everyone grieves differently. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s different for everyone, so please don’t ever let anyone tell you how to grieve. If you need to binge-watch Lifetime movies and eat a tub of ice cream, do it. If you need to dive full force into a fitness routine, do that. If you need to dress up like a damn chicken and jump and down on one leg, then do it. Do whatever YOU need to do to get through your grief and heal your heart. Give yourself grace, and let yourself grieve.
Resources that helped me
The Joyful Mourning. TheMorning.com is a website created for women in grief after baby loss. I listened to the podcast The Joyful Mourning, signed up for their newsletter, and followed them on social media at @thejoyfulmorning.
Therapy. I highly recommend talking with a professional. I’ve been in therapy for most of my adult life, and I’m so thankful for the growth, understanding, awareness, and healing they’ve helped me through.
Exercise. Find a way to move your body, get your blood pumping, stretch your muscles, and release those endorphins. This isn’t Amber talking y’all, it’s science. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help ease depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins, and other brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.
Prayer and meditation. Sometimes my prayers are articulate and clear. Other times they’re just tears and uncontrollable sobbing. Sometimes there are no words, and I just need to sit in the silence, and that’s okay, too. Whether written, spoken, or mindfully thought, prayers and meditation are powerful.
Read. Reading was therapeutic for me. It can be something specific to grief like, I Will Carry You by Angie Smith, a book about the sacred dance of grief and joy. Or it could be something like Love Does by Bob Goff, one of my favorite books of all time, about discovering an incredible life in an ordinary world.
Good things in. Good things out. In times of suffocating grief, it’s more important than ever to put yourself first. Because, after all, we can’t pour from empty cups. I couldn’t fully take care of my family if I didn’t take care of myself first. So, I tried to feed myself good things. I’m not just talking about food, either, I’m talking about what I fed my mind, body, and soul. I fed myself good food and good thoughts, and I surrounded myself with good energy and lots of love. If I had someone in my life that could be hard to handle, I separated myself for a bit, until I was stronger. Instead of binging my favorite murder podcast, I tried to choose a feel-good comedy. And occasionally, instead of grabbing the pint of ice cream, I ate an apple instead. Occasionally. Because, all things in balance, right? As you get stronger, you can go back to murder podcasts, ice cream, and Law & Order, if you like, but when I was healing, it was important for me to put good stuff in, so I could give good things back.
Remember, these are simply things that help me with my grief. Find what works best and feels right for you. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here. You’re not alone. Feel free to message me on Facebook or Instagram at @PenneyFarmsPrincess, or email me at [email protected].